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Not a Penguin

People who are infused with chemotherapy report feeling cold during and after the treatment, sometimes for months after completing their courses. I empathize with them, even though I've never had chemo, because I feel cold all the time. (As I write this, I'm wearing a fleece bathrobe over my clothes and have a space heater 6 inches from me, blasting on "max heat" setting.)

The first time I ever felt hot, really hot, was during my first pregnancy. I finishing up my bachelor's degree and in classes with people 4-6 years younger than me and I felt like I was another species than them. The hot flushes would arrive exactly when I was at my most vulnerable, like when all eyes were on me as I answered a question. The flush would begin under my arms and spread up to face. Occasionally, some kind-hearted youngster would look at me as I imagine they look at their mother and whisper, "Are you ok?" The flushes faded quickly and I didn't experience them again with my second pregnancy. Instead, I felt cold all the time.

I am obsessive about always having a jacket in the car, and nagging my children about wearing enough layers. My husband is always warm, so our kids had an ally against my tyranny of bundling up; even now, they roll their eyes at me, chuckle with their dad and move out the door into the temperate California weather. And from the couch, I still shiver underneath my 2 throw blankets.

There are times when I'm so cold I can't think straight, can't finish sentences and being kind to others is a chore. All I can concentrate on is getting warm. I wear wool socks, the kind you buy for the snow, in fall, winter and spring. I collect my dogs and pile them on top of me to warm me up sometimes. I learned a few years back that an organism needs 4 things to thrive: nourishment, rhythm, rest and warmth. I will occasionally wonder where this perpetual feeling of cold comes from (circulation? diet? emotion?), but mostly I just concentrate on working with the temperature I feel in the moment. I consider it vital to my well-being and the well-being of those around me that I am warm.

With all this being said, why then did I register for a trip to Iceland in winter, where the days are short and cold and the nights are even colder? I've always wanted to see Iceland. I had a friend in high school who was from there and knowing her made me feel special, like I knew more than others about the world because I knew this person who came from a different part of it. She introduced me to Bjork (at the time it was her band, Ice Cubes, that we listened to) and I taught her how to make French toast. She told me about growing up in Iceland, how the academics were so much more challenging and that students went to "discos" to dance off their stress. I told her I would visit it someday, and now, 30 years later, I'm keeping that promise.

It means bringing several jackets and warm layers, hand and foot warmers and special boots and socks. I usually travel to warm, tropical places where my entire week's worth of clothes fit into a single carry-on. Keeping this promise means I'll be lugging multiple bags filled with all the things to keep me warm. And a really good camera that I hope will capture the northern lights.

I've been experiencing a few of those hot flushes lately, but they don't seem to follow any predictable pattern, which is a shame. I'd like to talk my body into flushing me with heat in the middle of the my hike out to the Solheimajokull outlet glacier! We'll see...

I'll be away February 18-25. While I'm gone, don't forget your jacket when you go out, okay?

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